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Plastics Makers Agree: Plastics Don't Belong in Our Oceans

Contact: Allyson Wilson (202) 249-6623  
Email: allyson_wilson@americanchemistry.com

Industry Responds to Inaccurate Depictions in Film “Bag It!”

WASHINGTON, D.C. (April 10, 2011) – The American Chemistry Council (ACC) issued the following statement to address questions about plastic products and industry activities depicted in the film “Bag It!”, which may be attributed to Anne Womack Kolton, vice president of communications (more at http://www.aboutbagit.com):

The film “Bag It!” provides a vivid look at the impact of litter on our environment and asks how we all can leave a lighter footprint on the earth. We certainly hope that the film will help focus greater attention on litter prevention, including efforts to increase plastics recycling.

Unfortunately, the film gives little to no attention to plastics’ environmental benefits or the essential, often life-saving products made from plastic.

Through a compelling depiction of litter in the marine environment, the film repeats a point on which everyone can agree: plastics don’t belong in our oceans. The primary question all of us—beach goers, boaters, businesses, and public officials—should ask is: how do we keep litter out of our oceans in the first place?

Scientists, international organizations and many environmental groups have concluded that there is no single answer. Most agree that recycling, coupled with tough litter abatement laws, well-run municipal waste management systems and behavioral changes, can help keep litter out of our waste stream, off our beaches, and away from our oceans. As NOAA puts it: “The only way to manage the marine debris issues is through prevention—changing the behaviors that cause marine debris to enter the environment.”

The film does take some liberties in its depiction of ACC's efforts to promote plastics recycling and our participation in the legislative process. Contrary to what was depicted in the film, we prefer to support approaches that provide solutions, including recycling education and promotion, and to work with communities, NGOs, and other stakeholders on collaborative, effective outcomes. To set the record straight, ACC has not been a party to the referenced lawsuits against communities in California.

The film correctly observes that plastics are useful materials and that people should focus on reducing, reusing, and recycling. With respect to plastic bags, it’s now easier than ever for us all to reduce, reuse, and recycle. Nearly every major grocer sells inexpensive reusable bags. Ninety percent of consumers reuse plastic grocery bags at home for things like doggy duty to clean up after pets, trash can liners, and totes for kids’ lunches. And with recycling programs now spanning the country (Wal-Mart, Target, and Lowe’s nationwide now all have collection bins), consumers can return leftover plastic bags and numerous plastic wraps to those and other stores for recycling. Learn more about recycling plastic bags and wraps at grocery stores.

Despite some inaccuracies, the film adds to the growing recognition of the impact of careless waste handling, particularly in the marine environment. Together, governments, scientists, citizens, and businesses can work in successful partnerships to achieve real solutions. We agree with the Ocean Conservancy, which points out in the movie that “marine debris is a problem we can readily solve...”

As producers of products that find their way into the marine environment, plastic makers are working with government officials, retailers, anti-litter groups, s and consumers to devise solutions to prevent marine litter. Specifically, we are:

  • Helping develop new and innovative recycling programs nationwide;
  • Promoting industry-wide practices to contain plastic pellets;
  • Partnering with government and conservationists to encourage recycling and discourage litter;
  • Working to educate children on the link between litter and marine health;
  • Working with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to advance scientific understanding of marine litter; and
  • Continuing to innovate and develop smaller, lighter packaging.

For further information on plastics and marine litter, please visit: www.marinedebrissolutions.com.

More information about ACC’s response to the film “Bag It!” is available at http://www.aboutbagit.com.

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